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Williams-Sonoma Inc., Zendesk and Yahoo Pave the Way for Gender Diversity in the Bay Area

Tuesday, November 17, 2015  
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Mary Thorsby
Marketing Director
Twitter: @wtrmrk

PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 17, 2015 – A newly released study finds that Williams-Sonoma Inc., Zendesk and Yahoo are among a select group of Bay Area companies paving the way for gender diversity in corporate leadership. Those three companies, along with eight others, make up the inaugural Watermark Index, which honors Bay Area companies that support the advancement of women and promote equal opportunity within their organizations.

Watermark – a leading Bay Area executive women’s organization – collaborated with the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) to launch the Watermark Index. Using data from its 2015-16 UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management analyzed the 223 largest public companies headquartered in the Bay Area and found that in 11 (4.9 percent) of the companies, women hold 30 percent or more of the top-five compensated executive positions and board seats.

“Silicon Valley, in the heart of the Bay Area, is a global hub of innovation and a top destination for some of the world’s best talent,” says Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson. “Our companies – some of the largest in the world – have the opportunity to lead the rest of the business community by example in advancing gender diversity within the top ranks. The Watermark Index is designed to showcase those already doing so.”

Among the study’s highlights:

  • Williams-Sonoma Inc. holds the top spot in gender diversity in the Bay Area with 57.1 percent, or almost double the 30 percent benchmark. In fact, William-Sonoma has the highest percentage among the largest public companies statewide.
  • Of the 11 companies that make up the inaugural Watermark Index, four are pharmaceutical companies and three are technology companies – both traditionally male-dominated industries.
  • From a revenue standpoint, companies on the Watermark Index outperformed other companies in the region by 49 percent – and companies in the state by 35 percent.

The full list of companies on the Watermark Index includes:

  • Arista Networks, Santa Clara
  • Genomic Health, Redwood City
  • Geron, Menlo Park
  • Intersect ENT, Menlo Park
  • Medivation, San Francisco
  • Restoration Hardware, Corte Madera
  • Simpson Strong-Tie, Pleasanton
  • Wells Fargo, San Francisco
  • Williams-Sonoma Inc., San Francisco
  • Yahoo, Sunnyvale
  • Zendesk, San Francisco

First Republic Bank and HP join the Watermark Index as honorable mentions.

The winners will be honored at Watermark’s signature event, the Make Your Mark Awards, 6-9 p.m., tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.

Watermark encourages leaders of the other 212 Bay Area companies to take an honest look at their gender diversity makeup to determine areas for improvement and next steps.

“We’d like to see more companies in the Watermark Index next year,” Williamson says. “Several tech giants, including HP, Intel and Salesforce, have already publicly acknowledged commitments to advance diversity and equality in the past few months. We applaud these companies’ efforts and encourage leaders of the other Bay Area companies to do the same.”

“This important issue is getting some much-needed attention,” says Graduate School of Management Research Specialist Amanda Kimball, author of the UC Davis study. “I hope the Watermark Index serves as a catalyst for more companies to recognize the importance of gender and racial diversity on leadership teams.”

For companies that want to increase their gender diversity at all levels, Watermark can help companies and employees achieve the right balance for optimal success.

“By partnering with Watermark, companies can help ensure that all employees – especially women – are well-equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to climb the corporate ladder,” says Watermark Board Chair Lynne Born, partner and COO at Seiler. “We work with companies to develop employee engagement programs, such as mentorship and sponsorship programs, and to accelerate the growth of a gender diverse talent pool in-house. And we encourage women to seek out and participate in development programs to gain the skills they need to advance in their careers.”

About Watermark

Watermark is the leading organization of Bay Area women executives focused on increasing the representation of women in leadership roles. Founded in 1993, Watermark represents more than 700 Bay Area senior and emerging executives from across all industries and functions and offers professional development and networking opportunities for members, as well as support for girls' leadership programs. Visit for more information.